Dave continues his love affair with premier UK company Jöttnar and tests out the Jöttnar Fjörm in UK winter conditions.
A seriously technical 850 Fill Power hydrophobic down jacket, designed for maximum protection in the most hostile of environments
CGR Rating ****
Last season we took a close look at both Belay jackets in our CGR Buyers Guide to Belay Jackets and the Jöttnar Bergelmir jacket. Jöttnar are now a confirmed player in the high end, technical winter climbing and expedition clothing arena. The product range has been receiving major reviews across the media and we tend to agree, all of the products we have tested are well designed and fit for purpose.
The Jöttnar Fjörm is a fully featured belay jacket that is ideal for winter climbing, ski touring and expedition work. The jacket has a traditional baffle design that absolutely stuffed full of high quality down. This felt no mere ‘pop it on at the crag’ or wear down the climbing wall because it’s a little chilly type of jacket; there are plenty of down jackets that will fit that bill. The Jöttnar Fjörm is the jacket you would buy to go to Norway or any Scandinavian country in January. It’s the sort of jacket that you buy because you are going to a hostile and cold climate, whether that be belaying your mate for hours on some gnarly Ben Nevis grade VIII or spending several nights out on a winter tour of The Cairngorms or skiing across the Hardangavidda in March.
The jackets main insulation comes from the 850 Fill Power hydrophobic down and has a down to feather ration of 93 to 7, so you really do feel the loft. When dry the Jöttnar Fjörm always had a great loft and never felt patchy. This warmth also comes from the box wall construction which allows the down plenty of room to loft and doesn’t leak heat through the stitching, another high quality piece of thinking.
Jöttnar have chosen Down Tek to provide the water repellent down for the Fjörm, the advantage over other hydrophobic down being that it doesn’t lose its water repellency when washed. It also has a high environmental credentials with a zero PFC label but no Bluesign label. The whole environmental and social philosophy is well established within the Jöttnar ethos and the chemical makeup of the down treatment sits nicely within this. For those who are unfamiliar with the hydrophobic down concept, it is a treatment that is applied to the down fibres that works in a similar way to a dry water repellent treatment on your hardshell. As water moisture hits the down it forms into a small ball and rolls off instead of soaking it. For more information of the Down Tek technology you can read it here.
So how did the Jöttnar Fjörm perform? As an expedition jacket it was great, the test size was a medium and it easily went over all my other clothing when I needed to stop. It provided instant warmth and wasn’t intrusive when doing small jobs like unpacking, tent pitching and cooking. It then packed down to a great size. The jacket comes with a stuffsack but this wasn’t waterproof so I ended up using an Exped roll top bag to keep it in together with spare gloves, etc. This system worked well, the jacket deployed easily and the loft was virtually instantaneous. This also meant that I could clip the belay jacket onto my harness. The down stayed reasonably well lofted even when drowned out in spindrift and on one day the jacket got pretty wet and I still found some loft. A quick dry out in the drying room soon saw it bought back into top condition.
As a belay jacket I found a couple of minor but nagging issues: the 2 way zip was a little awkward to use with chunky belay gloves on. I would like to see some extra Velcro patches on a flap so I can get the jacket closed easily in windy conditions. Trying to close the zip on small ledges could be trying and sometimes frustrating. Once engaged the zip worked fine and it was handy to have a two way zip when wearing a harness or when needing a toilet visit. The issue here is that small annoyances often become a bigger issue when you pressed for time or stressed – doing a zip up should be super easy. The zip on the Jöttnar Bergelmir was brilliant and should be adopted on the Fjorm. I sometimes found myself cold as I couldn’t do up the jacket properly when belaying.
The zip went up to the awesome hood. This was without doubt the best feature of the Jöttnar Fjörm, it immediately provided a little warm house around my head. It was easily engulfed my climbing helmet as was easily adjustable using the three adjustment cords, one on each side and one on the rear. This made it simple to use with both a helmet and without. Once I had it adjusted correctly (tip – do this in the comfort of you nice warm home and not on a belay ledge with 40mph winds!) it slipped over my climbing helmet with ease and provided a very effective barrier against the elements. The wired hood is always welcome and often sets the standard for a jacket designed by climbers for climbers.The DWR treated outer material was spindrift proof and the soft tricot chin guard all made up for a cozy belay experience. I thought it was a well thought out hood and a credit to Jöttnar for putting time into a feature that often lets other belay jackets down. I had no issues at all with the hood, it worked perfectly every time.
Another minor, but nagging issue were the sleeve cuffs – most of the time I just could get the sleeves off when I was ready to climb. I liked the way the sleeve cuffs, the collar and the hem were filled with a synthetic filling – Neutron 120. This 120g/m² synthetic filling, made for Jöttnar and chosen over other fillings because of it’s permeability and durability is a great idea as it means those areas that often get the wettest will dry out the quickest. But back to the cuffs – it would have been better if the cuffs were fully elasticated without the velcro tension strap. This would help me get the sleeves off over my climbing gloves – on several occasions I had to just pull the jacket off inside out to get it off with my gloves on. This wasn’t an issue at all with thinner gloves and would be a simple but very effective change to make.
Finally the pockets on the Jöttnar Fjörm. There are three pockets, two vertical, side handwarmer pockets and a large inside mesh pocket for stuffing kit into. This was zipped for added security and was plenty big enough for gloves, hats, etc. I think the jacket would be better served with two very large mesh pockets, one on either side. If Jöttnar would take out the zipped closure and just had them elasticated that would be perfect. The handwarmer pockets were also on the small size and could be better if they were 2 or 3cms bigger – this would mean they would work well with gloves on. I can understand that people would use the Jöttnar Fjorm for other purposes other than UK winter climbing and the pockets worked plenty good enough in every other climbing situation.
So, in conclusion, the Jöttnar Fjorm is a great value winter jacket. The hydrophobic down worked very well. It’s as light as a feather and packed full of technical features. It would make the perfect expedition jacket (five stars for that) and with a couple of minor adjustments would make a five star UK winter climbing belay jacket. And at £295 is great value for such a well designed and warm jacket.
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